San Francisco Giants: A Decade Of Hits And Misses In The 1st Round

by Marc Keller | Posted on Tuesday, August 27th, 2013
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Buster Posey

The San Francisco Giants are a proud organization when it comes to developing home-grown players.  Before they went on to win two of the last three World Series, the Giants were known as a mid-market team; not small enough to were they had to completely build their team through their farm system, but not large enough to were they could go out and buy a championship.  They’ve always had a healthy payroll, but by no means large enough to make fans run a cost-benefit analysis.

Here is a run down on the last decade of Giants first round picks:

2013 – Christian Arroyo, SS Hernando HS (25th Overall)

According to a lot of industry folks, this was a total reach on the part of the Giants.  Many saw Arroyo as more of a second-to-third round draft pick, so the Giants taking Arroyo at #25 raise some eyebrows.  Arroyo however, is making the Giants scouting department look good thus far in his short playing career.  Currently in the Arizona Fall League, Arroyo is batting .314/.378/.488 with 44 R’s, 17 2B’s, 1 HR, 36 RBI’s, 18 BB’s, 31 K’s, and an .866 OPS.  The Giants still are playing Arroyo at shortstop, but many think they will eventually move him to 2B, or even perhaps catcher.

2012 – Chris Stratton, SP Mississippi State University (20th Overall)

For being drafted out of college and still pitching in class low-A ball, many Giants fans are starting to get worried about Stratton as a prospect.  At age 22, Stratton is currently pitching in the Sally League for the Augusta Green Jackets, were he has an 8-3 W-L record with a 3.16 ERA, 44 R’s, 44 ER’s, 5 HR’s, 44 BB’s, 119 K’s, 8.5 K/9, and a 1.31 WHIP.  Reports are that his velocity is down a bit and that his future now may be as a reliever in pro-ball.  Hopefully, Stratton can start to move along the ranks of the Giants farm system and in 2-3 years, find his way to the big league.

2011 – Joe Panik, SS St. John’s University (29th Overall)

2011 – Kyle Crick, SP Sherman HS (49th Overall)

Panik is moving as scheduled through the Giants farm system.  He is currently playing in double-A Richmond in the Eastern League, were he has a .265/.340/.354 triple-slash line, with 62 R’s, 26 2B’s, 4 HR’s, 53 RBI’s, 54 BB’s, 60 K’s, an a .694 OPS.  The best case scenario would be for Panik to get an invite to Spring Training next season, continue to improve on his hitting, and impress enough to fight for the utility infield spot on the roster.  The more likely scenario for Panik is to continue to improve his game and go into triple-A ball.  With current Giants second baseman Marco Scutaro dealing with nagging injuries and at age 37, Panik seems like the ideal fit to take over for Scutaro whenever he decides to hang it up.

Crick on the other hand, is a stud.  At age 20, Crick is currently ranked as one of the best starting pitching prospects in all of baseball (ESPN’s Keith Law has Crick #37 on his most recently updated Top 50 prospect list), Crick is finishing up this year in high class-A San Jose.  He is pitching beautifully, as he currently has a 2-1 W-L record in 13 games started, with a 1.75 ERA, 46 H’s, 20 R’s, 12 ER’s, 1 HR’s, 39 BB’s, 84 K’s, 12.3 K/9, and a 1.38 WHIP.  At the rate Crick is progressing, he’ll pitch next season in double-A Richmond, and then hopefully enter the 2015 Spring Training season possibly fighting for a 4th or 5th starting rotation spot.

2010 – Gary Brown, CF Cal State Fullerton (24th Overall)

There was a lot of hope and hype surrounding Brown when he was in high class-A ball (.336/.407/.519, 115 R’s, 34 2B’s, 14 HR’s, 80 RBI’s, 53 SB’s, .925) where he was a top prospect in all of baseball.  Since then however, his star as fallen off tremendously, with some wondering if he’ll ever make any contribution at the big league level.  At age 24 and currently in triple-A Fresno, Brown is hitting just .235/.290/.387 with 77 R’s, 29 2B’s, 13 HR’s, 48 RBI’s, 15 SB’s, 31 BB’s, 126 K’s, and an .677 OPS.  He’ll get an invite to Spring Training this season, but with Giants current center fielder Angel Pagan returning from a season-long hamstring injury and entering the second year of a four year contract he signed at the start of this season, there just may not be any room for Brown on the big league roster next season, and he’ll most likely have to repeat triple-A to work on his hitting mechanics.

2009 – Zach Wheeler, SP East Paulding HS (6th Overall)

Wheeler will forever be known to Giants fans as the one who got away.  He was just cursing along nicely through the Giants farm system, with many hoping that he would be the next great starting pitching prospect, following in the recent great line of Matt Cain, Lincecum, and Bumgarner.  In the 2011 season however, those hopes and dreams died when Giants General Manager, Brian Sabean, caught in the middle of a tight playoff race and in the midst trying to defend the Giants first of two World Series victory, dealt the highly-touted prospect for New York Mets outfielder Carlos Beltran.  This was purely a rental acquisition, as Beltran was going to be a free agent at the end of the season, and the Giants had little intentions of resigning him.  Beltran also was a outright free agent, meaning the Giants wouldn’t get any draft pick compensation for him signing elsewhere.  This was definitely a trade that still stings, as Wheeler is now pitching for the Mets at the big league level, and looking like the pitching prospect we thought he would be (6-2 W-L record, with a 3.49 ERA, 30 R’s, 27 ER’s, 32 BB’s, 62 K’s, 8.0 K/9, and 1.37 WHIP.

2008 – Gerald “Buster” Posey, C Florida State University (5th Overall)

2008 – Conor Gillaspie, 3B Wichita State University (37th Overall)

Um, yeah, I think the Giants hit on this draft pick.  Going into the 2008 MLB Draft, teams were scared off to draft Posey because they were worried about his signability, as he was the NCAA Golden Spike Award winner and would probably demand a high signing bonus.  That didn’t scare off the Giants however, and all Buster’s done since joining the Giants full-time in 2010 was win the NL ROY, the NL MVP award, and two World Series rings, all at the age of 26.

Unfortunately, the Giants can’t say the same for Gillaspie.  He would move through the Giants farm system as scheduled.  He posted good minor league numbers (career .287/.358/.420 triple-slash), but nothing great.  The Giants gave him a couple different call-ups between the 2011 and 2012 season, but he just couldn’t take advantage of those opportunities.  Before Spring Training this season, the Giants would trade Gillaspie to the Chicago White Sox for minor league relief pitching prospect Jeff Soptic.

2007 – Madison Bumgarner, SP South Caldwell HS (10th Overall)

2007 – Tim Alderson, SP Horizon HS (22nd Overall)

2007 – Wendell Fairley, CF George County HS (29th Overall)

2007 – Nick Noonan, SS Parker HS (32nd Overall)

2007 – Jackson Williams, C University of Oklahoma (43rd Overall) 

2007 – Charlie Culberson, SS Calhoun HS (51st Overall)

This draft class would help win the Giants two World Series, but not in the way you might think.  Obviously the Giants hit on the Bumgarner pick, as he has blossomed into one of the top 15 starting pitchers in all of baseball.  Bumgarner joined the Giants as a full-time starter in the 2010 season and his clutch pitching during the stretch run and in the playoffs would help win the Giants the 2010 World Series.  He would repeat and do the same for the Giants when they won the 2012 World Series.

But Bumgarner wasn’t the only one from this draft class that would help the Giants win the World Series in 2010 and 2012.  Alderson, the second pick of this six member group, and who had great promise as a prospect, was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2009 along with Giants outfielder John Bowker, for second baseman Freddy Sanchez.  Sanchez would play well for the Giants in that 2010 season, batting .292/.342/.397 with 55 R’s, 22 2B’s, 7 HR’s, 47 RBI’s, and an .739 OPS.

Other player who would help the Giants win a World Series was Culberson, the 6th member of this draft class.  Culberson was a big contributor to the Giants winning the 2012 World Series.  He was the piece that the Giants sent to the Colorado Rockies for Giants current second baseman Marco Scutaro, and all he did was ignite the spark that would start the remarkable run the Giant went on to win the 2012 World Series.  Scutaro would go on to bat well-over .300 for the Giants and win the NLDS MVP Award for the Giants in the 2012 playoffs.  He also had the decisive game-winning hit in Game 4 of the 2012 World Series.

The other members of this draft class, Fairley, Noonan, and Williams, haven’t done much for the Giants.  The only one of the three to register MLB service time is Noonan, who this season has bounced around between the Giants and their triple-A affiliate, Fresno Grizzlies.  So far in 53 games this season, Noonan has a .209/.250/.231 hit line with not much else.  At age 24, their is still time for him to develop, and next season Noonan should make more of a lasting impact.

Williams has yet to see service time in the majors, and at age 27 and finishing his three season at triple-A Fresno.  In seven minor league seasons, he is a career .218 batting average.  That just won’t get it done.

Fairley would spend five seasons in the Giants farm system, batting a career .257 average.  He would deal with some off-field issues and at the beginning of the 2013 season, the Giants would outright release him from their organization.

2006 – Tim Lincecum, SP University of Washington (10th Overall)

2006 – Emmanuel Burriss, SS Kent State University (33rd Overall)

The draft pick that started it all!  Dubbed “The Franchise” the moment he came to Arizona for Spring Training, Lincecum would be the first building block of this masterful Giants run and help make the Giants franchise to what it has become today.  Lincecum came in with much hype, and he lived up to it.  He spent little time in the Giants farm system, making only 13 starts between single-A and triple-A.  His rapid movement through the Giants  system far exceeded expectations, and when he finally made his first start for the Giants in 2007, it was clear that he was here to stay.  Since his time with the Giants, all he’s done is win back-to-back CY Young Awards and be a key contributor to two World Series titles.  While he’s struggled for the most of the past two seasons, Lincecum remains amongst the more popular Giants.  He’ll be a free agent at the end of this season, and it remains to be scene whether or not the Giants will resign him.

There was also a lot of promise surrounding Burris as a player coming up through the Giants system.  He was a player who had tremendous speed and if he could get on-base on a consistent bases, he could reek havoc on the base paths.  Unfortunately, that was something that Burris couldn’t do.  In five seasons with the Giants in the majors, Burris would play sparingly, finishing with a career .243/.304/.269 slash line.  He also didn’t steal many bases when he would get on.  The most SB’s Burris would steal for the Giants was 13 in 2008 when he played in 95 games.  After the 2012 season, the Giants didn’t resign Burris and he ended up signing a contract with the Cincinnati Reds.  He is currently playing with their triple-A affiliate, Louisville, where he is batting .239/.287/.264 with 30 R’s, 1 HR, 24 RBI’s, 16 SB’s, and an .551 OPS.

2005 – No First Round Draft Pick

2004 – No First Round Draft Pick

2003 – David Aardsma, SP Penn State University (22nd Overall)

2003 – Craig Whitaker, SP Lufkin HS (34th Overall)

Aardsma, while having a somewhat sustainable career in the majors, didn’t play long with the Giants.  Aardsma would play in just 11 games for the Giants before getting traded along with starting pitcher Jerome Williams in 2005 to the Chicago Cubs for relief pitcher LaTroy Hawkins.  For his career, Aardsma has played for seven teams in eight years, with his best seasons coming in 2009 and 2010 when he was acting as the Seattle Mariners closer.  In his two season’s with the Mariners, Aardsma would rack up 69 SV’s.

Whitaker retired in 2012 after 9 seasons toiling in the minors, the right-hander made it as high as Triple A but never got the call to the show. He owns a career record of 14-13 with 4.42 earned run average with 410 strike outs in 399 innings pitched. Whitaker spent his entire career  in the Giants organization and is also known as Roger Craig Whitaker but must prefer the handle Craig over Roger.

BHC Pick of the Litter: Buster Posey

BHC Franchise Flop: Wendell Fairley


If you were to describe the history of the Giants scouting department when it comes to drafting and developing players, you would describe them as “stars-and-scrubs.”  When they’ve had a top 10 pick, they’ve hit homers and all of them and then some.  When they’ve had to draft toward the later part of the first round and into the compensation pick round, they’ve missed on a lot of players.  But those are the ups-and downs of drafting in baseball, or in any other sport.  But when you hit on your draft picks, especially over a few years time, its the start of something special.  The Giants hit from 2006 thru 2008, and it was the building block of something special.



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Marc Keller
About the Author

Marc Keller is a Senior Writer for Baseball Hot Corner. His three greatest loves in life are his wife, son, and the San Francisco Giants. You can follow and banter with him on Twitter @mrarmchair.

  • Any study of the draft will show that basically unless you have a top five draft pick, the odds of finding a star player is pretty low. My study found that when a team is playoff competitive and with a draft pick in the 21-30 overall pick range, there is roughly a 10% chance of finding a good player there, let alone a star player. That helps to explain the star and scrubs effect.

    On top of that, even top 5 picks are good players less times than a coin flip, so the Giants success with their Top 10 picks is actually out of this world good. The Giants basically got the top player remaining in the draft, by WAR, in Lincecum, Posey, and Bumgarner, and they were probably one of the top 3-5 players period.

    They have done very well with the draft and development, that is why a large percentage of their roster is populated with homegrown players or acquired with homegrown players on both of their two World Championship teams.

  • The Giants pick at the end of the 1st round in 2004 goes by “Craig Whitaker”. Roger’s his first name, but he apparently doesn’t use it. won’t recognize it either.

    He was in the Giants org until last year, and has apparently called it quits.

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